Football pundit and former England player Trevor Francis will be the man in our ear during the forthcoming World Cup. He talks teams with Chris Anderson
What’s your role with Al Jazeera during the World Cup? It’s primarily punditry, and it’s mainly from the studios in Qatar, but I am going to be in Johannesburg for one week when the World Cup actually starts.
What do you think of South Africa as a venue?
I’m very happy: I think it’s a great opportunity for South Africa, and from England’s perspective the climate certainly strengthens their chances. Normally in these competitions it’s very hot, but the cooler temperatures in South Africa will suit the English players nicely.
Does covering the World Cup bring back memories of your own time in the competition?
It’s not the first time I’ve been involved in TV during a World Cup, but whenever there is a World Cup I do think back to my time playing for England in Spain ’82. That was my only appearance, but it was wonderful to be involved in such a great tournament, and it really was a special time.
How do you rate the England team’s chances this time? I don’t think we’ll win it. We looked good when we qualified, but since then there have been numerous problems, and these haven’t been settled. In terms of a goalkeeper, we don’t have a definite number one, and we don’t have anyone up front that can play with Wayne Rooney. Add to that the injury problems… I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but I don’t think we’ve come on since we qualified.
One key name missing is Beckham. Will his absence affect England’s performance? I think it would have been nice for Beckham if he’d been there, but I don’t think it’s a major loss. There are other key players whose loss would be felt far greater if they were missing.
Which teams do you think will do well in the tournament? I think Brazil will do well, and I hope Spain will continue their good form – they’re Europe’s strongest challengers.
How do you rate Maradona as Argentina’s manager? I think he was a far better player than he is a coach. So much will depend on if he can get the best from Messi, and have him playing anything like the form he’s shown this year with Barcelona. He is the best player in the world, but he hasn’t really shown that with Argentina. If he can find it again, they could win.
Who are the other key players to watch? Well, Drogba has had a brilliant season. He’s a great goal-scorer, and he is physically formidable and difficult to play against. I also think Xavi, of Barcelona and Spain, is one of the most gifted midfield players in world football – a fine passer of the ball and very clever in possession.
The FIFA World Cup will be screened on Al Jazeera Sports from June 11-July 11
Tired of just watching the football? Want to start playing? Here are three indoor options for the summer.
Ahdaaf Ahdaaf is Dubai’s most comprehensive indoor football venture for both men and women: the Al Quoz warehouse has a five-a-side and a six-a-side field, both of which can be rented for Dhs350 or Dhs450 respectively per hour. Can’t get a team together? Ahdaaf may be starting open-play evenings for those who don’t have a team to play with: we’ll keep you posted. The centre is open until 1am. 04 347 7666, www.ahdaaf.ae
Duplays Amateur sports league organiser Duplays is starting a 10-week summer season on June 27: keen footballers can play once a week at the Umm Suqeim Raffles Campus and other facilities in Al Barsha for Dhs450. There will be a range of different leagues, suiting both competitive and not-so-competitive players, although there’s nothing yet for ladies. Time to fill a gap in the market, maybe? www.duplays.com
Insportz This sports warehouse, in the land of warehouses in Al Quoz, has a five-a-side indoor football pitch that can be rented by the hour, priced at Dhs35 per person per hour. It’s perfect if you can get a group together to start your own league. We hear it’s packed with football-mad types on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so if you’re a bit of a Nigel-De-Jong-No-Mates, it’s worth heading down on those nights to see if you can join in. Open 9.30am-10pm. 04 347 5833, www.insportzclub.com